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Chairperson: Professor Lynne Adrian, Office: 101 ten Hoor Hall

The master of arts program in American Studies is designed to enable students to study American culture from a broad, interdisciplinary perspective, combining basic cultural studies with advanced professional training. Drawing upon the graduate resources of the University at large, students develop individually tailored programs of coursework that reflect their own special interests. Students may pursue an academic track or a professional track. Our graduates have used the MA in American Studies as preparation for positions in journalism, public relations, library service, historical preservation, community organizing, private foundations, law, and education.

Admission Requirements
A student interested in pursuing a master's degree in American Studies must first apply for admission to the Graduate School and satisfy the school's minimum requirements as stated in this catalog. Each applicant should submit an acceptable score on either the general test of the Graduate Record Examination or the Miller Analogies Test in support of his or her application.
The dean of the Graduate School will then forward the student's records and application to the Department of American Studies for evaluation. Although a basic undergraduate background in American culture (literature, history, and political thought) is preferable, it is not a prerequisite for admission to the program. Students given conditional admission to American Studies must earn a 3.0 in their first semester of coursework or they will be dropped from the M.A. program.

See the Admission Criteria section of this catalog for more information.

General Degree Requirements
Students should refer to the Graduate Handbook of the Department of American Studies for additional information.

Plan I. The student earns a minimum of 24 semester hours of credit in coursework and completes a thesis. A minimum of 6 semester hours thesis research is required.

Plan II. The student earns a minimum of 30 semester hours of credit in coursework.

Under either plan, the student's program must include the following 20 hours of American Studies courses: AMS 585, AMS 586, AMS 595, AMS 596, AMS 597, and 6 hours of seminars. A student may take up to 9 hours outside the department, choosing a single disciplinary or cognate area (literature, history, broadcast and film, women's studies, journalism, the South, etc.) or two minor areas. Most students, however, choose a focus within American Studies.

Comprehensive Examinations
Under either Plan I or Plan II, each candidate for the master of arts degree in American Studies will write a comprehensive examination designed to reflect the individual's program. The comprehensive examination is intended as an integrating, synthesizing experience that enables the student to draw together the various component areas of his or her course of study. The results of the examination should attest to the student's acquisition of an interdisciplinary perspective, as well as an understanding of American culture as a whole. See the American Studies Graduate Handbook for details on the comprehensive examinations.


Additional information on master's degree requirements is in the Degree Requirements section of this catalog.

Course Descriptions

AMS 500 Internship. Three hours. Pass/fail.
An internship opportunity that combines independent study and practical field work focusing on a particular problem or topic related to American culture and experience. Recent examples include internships in museum management, historic preservation, archaeological research, television production, category fiction, promotion of academic programs, documentary television, academic public relations, with Alabama Heritage and Louisville magazines, and with the Paul Bryant Museum.

AMS 501 African-American Experience. Three hours.
An investigation of the influence of Africa and the people of African descent on the development of American cultural experience, from the emergence of the Atlantic world and the slave trade to the freedom struggles of the late 20th century. The course will explore insights from various disciplines and examine several kinds of cultural artifacts (for example, music such as gospel, blues, jazz, and hip hop; the written and spoken word; sculpture, painting, and photography; the built environment in rural and urban contexts; religious and political economic ideas and phenomena) as well as engage canonical and cutting-edge works of cultural scholarship related to Africans in the Americas. Topics covered include the establishment of plantation societies and racialized chattel enslavement; the creation of African-American culture within the USA; Afro-centricity and the theory of African-Americans as Omni-American; the South as black national territory; and late capitalist challenges to black identity. Offered spring semester.

AMS 502 Special Topics in African-American Studies. Three hours.
Research and discussion of selected African-American topics.

AMS 505:506 Directed Study. One to three hours each semester.
Prerequisite: Sponsorship by a faculty member.


AMS 512 On the Road After 1950. Three hours.

This course seeks to introduce the breadth and power of the travel culture that defines "America" and to examining enduring features when writers take to the open road in America.


AMS 515 Service Learning in the Immigrant Community-Latinos. Three hours.

This course will examine the immigrant journey and immigrant life in the American South.  Through Lectures, class discussions, readings, films, outside speakers, and a community-based service learning project, the course will help students better understand the historical and contemporary issues that confront immigrants and their receiving communities. Students will interact with members of local immigrant communities by being placed with appropriate organizations or agencies that assist immigrants in the community. In addition to a final course paper based on their service learning experience, students will maintain a class journal. 


AMS 521 Writer and Artist in America.  Three hours.

Literary and visual artists practice their crafts for a wide range of reasons, but some of the most interesting work in 20th century U.S. arts & letters emerged in response to perceived social crises and challenges to American cultural values. Specifically, in this class we will consider artistic responses to sex in the early 20th century American city, the working class during the Great Depression, the challenges of artistic rebellion during the Cold War, the ethical dilemmas of the Vietnam War, the perils of the AIDS/HIV crisis, and the flourishing of contemporary consumer culture. Placing the work of selected writers and artists in a comparative framework, we will examine how these experiences of crisis and transition have given rise to particular kinds of cultural work and, by the same token, how works of cultural expression can shed light on the defining features of twentieth century American experiences. In the process, the course also will introduce you to several important movements in twentieth century American literature and visual art, including Naturalism, Modernism, Social Realism, the Beat movement, and Postmodernism. 


AMS 522 Popular Culture in America.  Three hours.

This course offers a selective survey and analysis of 20th century U.S. popular culture: more specifically, comic books, fan culture, television, music, advertising, and sports. By placing these materials within a social history context, the course will examine ways in which popular culture has reflected and shaped aspects of American society such as gender, race, class, and regional identity.


AMS 529 America Between the Wars. Three hours.

Explores the first two decades of America's "Modern Times" (1919-41), when Americans redefined themselves and their society, embracing and debating (sometimes hotly) old beliefs, new conceptions, and the implications of a machine-driven, modern-mass society.


AMS 530 Special Topics. One to three hours.
Selected American topics in American Studies offered by AMS faculty members or Americanists from related departments. Recent example: Women in America.

AMS 531 Studies in Popular Culture. Three hours.
Research and discussion of selected topics in American popular culture: literature, music, network broadcasting, advertising, film, and drama.

AMS 532 Studies in the Arts. Three hours.
Research and discussion of selected topics in literature, film, painting, photography, and architecture, and the role of the artist in 19th- and 20th-century America.

AMS 533 Studies in American Thought. Three hours.
Research and discussion of selected topics in American intellectual history: the law, nature and the city, religion and the state, liberalism and conservatism, Utopianism, and science and society.

AMS 534 Studies in the South. Three hours.
Research and discussion of selected topics in Southern culture: ethnicity, regional consciousness, women in the South, and change and continuity.

AMS 535 Studies in Ethnicity, Class, and Gender. Three hours.
Research and discussion of selected topics in ethnicity, class, and gender in America.

AMS 536 Studies in Social Experience. Three hours.
Research and discussion of selected topics in the American social experience.

AMS 537 Studies in the West. Three hours.
Research and discussion of selected topics in the American West as period, place, experience, and imagination: discovery and exploration; physical and cultural transformation; and value, ethic, and ideal.

AMS 538 Studies in African-American Culture. Three hours.
Research and discussion of selected topics in African-American culture.

AMS 540 Sexuality and Culture. Three hours.
This course examines sexuality as a category of historical and cultural analysis. With an interdisciplinary focus on representation in film, science, visual culture, literature, and politics, we will investigate how sexual categories and identities are produced and contested over time. The course emphasizes the complex intersection of sexuality with race, gender, class, and region to reveal the deep linkages among them as locations of power, oppression, and resistance. Students will become familiar with a range of theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of sexuality, including cultural studies, history, and critical theory.


AMS 545 The “Good War”. Three Hours.

Examination of selected topics from the American experience during the Second World War. Topics include the Homefront, the Holocaust, race relations, the emergence of American air power, and the impact of the war on American memory and postwar American society.

AMS 550 Women in America. Three hours.
A lecture/discussion course on the role of women in American culture which concentrates on the major social and cultural contributions of women from all backgrounds and walks of life. Key questions involve the historic role of women in America and how their status reflects the structure of society as a whole. Most of the readings focus on the twentieth century and the relationships between individual women and the cultural networks in which they participate and help create.


AMS 560 Race and Ethnicity in US Labor.  Three hours.

This course is designed to familiarize students with the important topics, themes and methodologies in the study of race and ethnicity in U.S. labor. Throughout the semester, we will examine the lives of working women and men and their roles in the social, political, and economic development of the United States. We will analyze the roll of gender, race, and ethnicity at home and in the workplace and examine how scholars have studied the people, events and institutions in this field. 


AMS 565 Fictions of American Identity.  Three hours.

An examination of American literature and culture from before the Civil War until after the Civil Rights Movement. Representations of American experience in essays, novels, poems, short stories, social reformist tracts, and the visual arts will be studied in the context of social and political debates over slavery, national identity, women's roles, immigration and assimilation, social mobility, urbanization, sexual mores, consumer culture, and race relations.


AMS 570 Native-White Relations to 1830.  Three hours.

This course covers the broad range of Native American experiences from first contacts with European explorers to the beginnings of Indian removal policies in 1830. We will particularly focus on the complex and intertwined relationships between Native Americans and white peoples: how each challenged, adapted to, and retreated from the other. The class will assess: colonial encounters among Native Americans, Spanish, French, and English; the meanings of white captives among the Indians; crossing over into different cultures and transforming identities in the new nation; and the impact of forced removal of Indians.  Because of the interdisciplinary nature of American Studies, this course will evaluate various cultural artifacts, including autobiographies, histories, origin myths, poetry, political statements, as well as visual images (paintings, engravings, films).


AMS 576 Constructing the American Revolution, 1776-1865.  Three hours.

From the Declaration of Independence to the Civil War, Americans have continually tried to provide narrative shape and cultural significance to their national origins. Through the analysis of primary and secondary sources (political tracts, art works, histories, biographies, fiction, and other artifacts), this course will explore the relationship between the eighteenth-century revolutionaries' and their nineteenth-century heirs' cultural construction of the Revolution.  Simply put, this course is about how people in the past have thought about their own past.


AMS 580 Democracy in America.  Three hours.

Throughout the first half of the nineteenth century, Americans prided themselves on their democratic politics, industrial progress, science and technology, religious faiths, capitalist tendencies, and control over nature. No other person captured the essence of American society and manners more than the French aristocrat, Alexis de Tocqueville, who traveled to the United States in the 1830s and published his famous work, Democracy in America. Using Tocqueville's observations as well as fiction, autobiography, painting, politics, and more, this course explores how ordinary Americans presented themselves as a democratic people from 1800 to 1865. 


AMS 585 American Experience, 1620–1865. Three hours.
An exploration of the formative years of the American cultural experience, from early European encounters with the New World to the attainment of continental nationhood. The course will draw upon insights from many disciplines and will include several kinds of cultural evidence (for example: literature, art, and photography; religious, political, and social thought and behavior; and economic, technological, and geographical development) as well as consideration of recent major synthetic works of cultural scholarship. Topics covered include the growth of colonial societies; the Revolutionary movement and the political foundations of the American Republic; the Market Revolution and the rise of middle-class culture; the antebellum South and the emerging West; and the origins and evolution of American cultural diversity. Offered fall semester.

AMS 586 American Experience, 1865–1960. Three hours.
An exploration of the development of the American cultural experience since 1865, focusing on the major material forces and intellectual currents that helped shape American attitudes, assumptions, institutions, behavior, and values. The course will draw upon insights from many disciplines and will include several kinds of cultural evidence (for example: literature, art, and photography; religious, political, and social thought and behavior; and economic, technological, and geographical development) as well as consideration of recent major synthetic works of cultural scholarship. Topics addressed and readings assigned are chosen to enlarge awareness of the transformation of America to a diverse, metropolitan, industrial society. These will include the relationship between nature and the city; the industrial revolution and changes in the workplace; immigration; changing class and gender relationships; the rise of leisure; and the development and triumph of modern corporate/consumer culture. Offered spring semester.

AMS 588 Teaching Internship. One hour. Pass/fail.
Required of all American Studies graduate teaching assistants assigned to AMS 150. Includes administrative techniques and test construction.

AMS 589 Approaches to Teaching American Studies. Three hours.
Prerequisite: Permission of the department.
A study of basic approaches to interdisciplinary teaching in American culture at the college level, along with supervised teaching experience.

AMS 591 American Period Seminar. Three hours.
In-depth study of a particular period or era in American historical experience. Recent examples include the Ragtime Era, the Jazz Age, the Great Depression, the Season of 1954–55, the '60s, contemporary America, the Postwar Period, the Romantic Revolutionaries (1905–14), the American Avant Garde (1893–1920), World War II: the Good War, the South and '30s Expression, the Civil Rights movement, the '50s, America between the Wars, the Colonial Period, the Aspirin Age, Postmodern America, Contemporary America, and Writing West.

AMS 592 American Topics Seminar. Three hours.
Study of special topics within the American cultural experience. Recent examples include American literary realism, women in America, the Civil Rights movement, the picture press, music and ethnicity, the politics of culture, regionalism in American culture, the changing American family, homelessness in America, American autobiography, American monuments, contemporary American folklore, Southern popular culture, Southern iconoclasts, politics and culture, historical memory, America by design, the other in America, women in America, race in America, 19th-century popular culture, and slavery and the Civil War in historic memory.

AMS 595 American Studies Colloquium, 1620–1865. Three hours.
Corequisite: AMS 585.
Discussion of methodological and theoretical issues in American Studies.


AMS 596 American Studies Colloquium, 1865–1960. Three hours.
Corequisite: AMS 586.
Presentation of research and methods.

AMS 597 Topics in American Cultural Analysis. Two hours.
Coordinating course required of M.A. candidates in their final semester.

AMS 598 Research Not Related to Thesis. One to three hours. Pass/fail.

AMS 599 Thesis Research. Three hours. Pass/fail.



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